The Wire: Complete Series — TV SERIES REVIEW


June 14, 2014

Wendell Pierce, Dominic West, Sonja Sohn, and Clarke Peters in HBO’s The Wire

It is hard to put into words the amount of respect I have for The Wire. It is most certainly one of the most ambitious and realistic shows you will ever watch. It is a shame that it was forced to end after five seasons. There were plenty of stories left to tell and I would have loved to watch every single one of them. The Wire is kind of like a book, in a way. There are numerous characters that fill up this story and it leaves you with just the right amount of answers.

This isn’t a show where any single episode showcases everything great about this show. This isn’t Breaking Bad and there is no “Ozymandias”  here. This show isn’t even really about single seasons. These characters are doing work through the entire run of the series and it never skips a beat. You are always interested in what they are doing and there are so many characters to love. This show also showed the start of many actors who would go on to do even bigger things. Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan are prime examples of this.

The Wire, from the start, is about a small group of police detectives in the city of Baltimore who work to try to bring down a drug ring. Among these cops are Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West), a smart but rebellious detective who hates authority and doing anything by the “chain of command.” He is constantly at odds with his superior Cedric Daniels (Fringe’s Lance Reddick), who lacks the fire and backbone that McNulty has at the start. They are trying to take down Avon Barksdale (Remember the Titans’ Wood Harris), the street savvy drug kingpin who always seems to be a step ahead of the cops. That is mostly because he is helped by his intelligent right hand man, Stringer Bell (Luther‘s Idris Elba).

The interesting thing about this show is that they don’t make the drug dealers out to be the bad guys from the get-go. Sure, the cops are trying to take them down; but for the most part, you get to see the human side of the drug dealers. You spend just about as much time with the drug dealers than you do with the cops. And its not just the bosses either. You see the layers of their operation. The street guys, the business aspect, the brains, etc. And some of these characters are more likable than the cops tracking them down. For instance, Avon Barksdale’s nephew D’Angelo (The Walking Dead’s Larry Gillard Jr.) and a young kid named Bodie (J.D. Williams) are key players who are extremely likable because you see things through their eyes and you can see their point of view along with seeing how their lives came to become part of the drug world. Even some of the most violent and despicable characters still have motivations and reasoning to their actions. And the best part is that you get to see the reasoning and you can see things from their perspective. That is what is so innovative about this show. This isn’t a cops vs drug dealers show. This is a realistic look at how both operations, police and the drug organization they are hunting operate.

Throughout the course of the show, there will be characters you love and hate. Personally, I hated McNulty for most of the first season. I just thought he was being a dick to everyone for no reason. But of course you get to see things through his eyes and how he sees things and you start to connect with him more. But William Rawls, McNulty’s boss, is just so unlikable that you probably will never like him or anything he does. Even our so-called “heroes” in this show do some truly disgusting things. Cops having to resort to despicable tactics in order to get what they want…now that is damn good television.

Season 1 is probably one of the strongest of the series because it focuses on the operations and how they work. It is a lot of setup but it all pays off. You get to see both sides of everything and it is one of the best seasons of any television show you will ever watch. The mechanics of it all and just how realistic it is; is reason enough to watch this show. I didn’t watch it when it was live on TV, which is a shame because it really is fantastic, but having watched all of the seasons back to back on DVD; I can safely say that The Wire is at the top of numerous critic’s “Top TV Shows of All-Time” list for a reason. It definitely deserves to be there.

Larry Gillard Jr. and Idris Elba in HBO’s The Wire

Season 2 was relatively weaker as it focused on a different aspect completely. The drug operation was no longer in force and the whole season focused on a group of  port workers who you may or may not care about. This was my least favorite seasons of the bunch. Mostly because it didn’t have the same feel because we were no longer focused on the drugs. We were focused on port workers importing illegal goods. They tried to do the same thing from the first season by trying to give these workers a backstory and some motivations and perspectives, but mostly, it didn’t work as well. But that isn’t a knock on the show. It is still better than 80% of the crap you see on TV. It is not a bad season, it is a very good season. It just isn’t as good as the rest.

Season 3 went back to the original drug organization from Season 1. Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) is the main player and he is the main guy they are after. But he is smart and knows how the cops operate. He knows how they can catch him and he stays ahead of the game. But it also introduces us to a politics aspect as well. This is one of the aspects that I personally loved. They introduce Tommy Carcetti (Game of Thrones’ Aidan Gillen) who ends up becoming involved in an election. And it is brilliant TV.

The Wire, each season, tries to incorporate a different aspect to the viewer. Season 1 had the drug organization. Season 2 had the port. Season 3 had the drugs again and the start of politics. Season 4 had the political aspect come full circle as it was the main story. But it also introduces you to the education aspect, as they focus a lot on the kids. These kids are punks but they are extremely likable punks who you just feel bad for. These are kids who were born into this life filled with drugs and violence. And you really do just want to help them. Adding the kids aspect really helped ground the show in more emotional roots.

Season 5 was another weaker one. This is because they tried to introduce us to another aspect: journalism. It isn’t that journalism isn’t interesting, because it is. I found myself engaged by a number of scenes having to do with the Baltimore newspaper, but it seemed thrown into the season just to add another aspect to it. They had to focus on that while juggling every other character they had already introduced and providing fitting endings for all of them. Again, it isn’t a knock. It is like picking you least favorite Christopher Nolan Batman film. No matter what, the least favorite is still pretty damn good.

This guy is a badass. “Oh, indeed.”

And then there is Omar (played brilliantly by Boardwalk Empire’s Michael K. Williams). This is one of the best characters on television ever. He is smart, he has attitude, and he is in the middle. He isn’t a cop, but he is also against the big drug organization. And we all love him for it. He is a badass with his trenchcoat and shotgun. He delivers each line of dialogue perfectly and you really feel for his character. When he goes through something, you feel it too. I don’t know if it was the stellar writing or just perfect acting and delivery by Williams, or a combination of the two; but Omar is one of the best characters you will ever watch.

The acting is some of the best you will see. It isn’t flashy, it is subtle. Every character acts how a real person realistically would act in those scenarios. All of the characters are given great personalities by great actors. The main cast is nearly 20 people so I won’t list all of them. But I have already praised about Michael K. Williams. Another actor who really shined was Andre Royo. Royo plays an addict who informs for our hero cops. But he plays him with the perfect amount of emotion that we can’t help but want to see the guy pull through. And it isn’t just the main cast. The supporting cast and the guest stars really shine as well. You really can’t find a single piece of bad acting on this show and that’s surprising considering Method Man plays an integral role in the later seasons. Truly impressive stuff.

You really get a feel for what Baltimore is really like when watching this show. You feel like you are there and you hate those damn corners just as much as the cops do. You feel like you know these characters and how everyone operates. Like I said, very realistic. This is one of the greatest shows to have ever aired on television. You will probably find certain words or phrases engraved in your head because of The Wire. “Re-up,” “good police,” and “juking the stats” will be in you head forever, I swear. And that is definitely not a bad thing.


+: Stellar acting all-around the board. Main cast, supporting, and guest stars have some truly amazing acting.

+: Brilliant writing. Characters and dialogue are all smart and realistic

+: The realistic nature of the show. Showing how real operations on both sides actually operate. Also, the realistic look at a broken city of Baltimore really adds to the show. It becomes more than just the setting.

+: Five great seasons that all lead to a perfect way to close out an amazing show. Good closure, leaving many stories left untold. And that is how it should be.


-: That theme song changes every season and it isn’t always for the better.

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